With COVID-19 affecting more and more of us each day, a conversation about preparing advance directives is becoming even more important.
“Right now, all of us understand how fragile life is, how quickly things can change, and how advance directives can be really helpful to those who love us,” said Kim Warner, a licensed clinical social worker.
She is encouraging us to think about those who will be asked to make decisions on our behalf.
“It gives them the equipment, and the opinions of what I value, way before you have to talk about it emotionally,” she said.
Advance directives are written, legal instructions regarding your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Estate Attorney Michael Ettinger agrees with Warner that now is a good time to have this conversation.
“COVID-19 is more of an illustration of the need to plan. It just proves that life is full of surprises, and you have to be prepared,” he said.
Ettinger wants you to identify a trusted individual known as a healthcare proxy.
“Tell them what you're thinking is, what your philosophy is about ‘end of life.’ This gives some guidance to make the right decision based on all the circumstances and technology at the time,” he said.
Whether you choose to write a living will or choose a health care proxy, Ettinger says you must have witnesses; which lawyers are prepared to assist with via videoconferencing and email.
“We’ve done many of them remotely. We are required to attach our signatures as witnesses and notary within 24 hours, and then we can send the originals back to the clients,” he said.
And if you are concerned about the validity of your directives should you fall ill outside of New York, Ettinger said the U.S. Constitution ensures you will be covered.
“Under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, each state is required to honor the laws of each other state,” he said. “So if I prepare a health proxy and living will in New York, and I fall ill in South Carolina, South Carolina is required to honor the document as long as it's valid under New York law.”
Warner wants us to put plans in place to make the process as easy as possible for those who will have these very difficult conversations about our care.
Today’s pandemic highlights our need for this,” she said.